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Pete Fiutak

Caleb Williams Wins Heisman Trophy (and why I voted for him)

Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy. Here’s why Pete Fiutak voted for him in a weird year for the award.

Why My Heisman Vote Went To Caleb Williams

Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak

The 2022 Heisman Trophy run was weird.

Caleb Williams didn’t emerge until the very end – mostly because no one seemed to watch him until the Notre Dame game – and even with the performances over the final few games his USC team wasn’t able to win the Pac-12 Championship.

Max Duggan didn’t win the Big 12 Championship, CJ Stroud didn’t even get to his title game, and the guy who did get it done – Stetson Bennett – was roasted mercilessly on social media for being one of the four finalists.

And that’s what made this all a little bit off.

Are Williams, Duggan, Stroud, and Bennett the best players in college football? No, but that’s not really how the Heisman voting works.

Heisman Trophy Finish
1. Caleb Williams, USC 2,031 (544 1st)
2. Max Duggan, TCU 1,421 (188)
3. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State 539 (37)
4. Stetson Bennett, Georgia 349 (36)
5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee 226 (81)
6. Bryce Young, Alabama 141 (34)
7. Blake Corum, Michigan 125 (8)
8. Michael Penix Jr., Washington 114 (9)
9. Bijan Robinson, Texas 75 (4)
10. Drake Maye, North Carolina 42 (3)

Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter are probably the two best players, and the 2023 NFL Draft might prove that.

Were the four finalists the best quarterbacks in college football? It’s debatable. I think Bryce Young is college football’s best quarterback, and you could name ten others and not necessarily be wrong, but that’s not really how the Heisman voting works.

Were any of the four finalists the nation’s leading passer? No. That was Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., and he put up the best numbers by a mile. But that’s not how the Heisman voting works.

2023 Early Heisman Watch List

I wish we could vote for this thing after the bowls and College Football Playoff are over – aka the games that matter most – but we can’t. So to me, the Heisman voting is always about who the signature player was in the regular season, making it a combination of the MVP and MOP.

Who is The Guy who was the regular season?

I’m not going to argue against Stetson Bennett – at least as a finalist.

Yeah, he had a ton of talent around him to work with, but he also became the glue for an unbeaten run for a team that had to do a near-total rebuild of top starters.

Everyone seems to forget just how amazing he was in the first quarter of the win over Oregon. No one remembers how he pulled the Missouri game out of the fire, outplayed – sort of – Hendon Hooker in the big win over Tennessee, and again, won his conference championship.

But no, Stetson Bennett didn’t make my list. You can only pick three players.

Hendon Hooker and Blake Corum didn’t make my list, either, but Hooker was 3B.

It’s brutally unfair – I despise dealing with negatives in a contest like this – but Hooker didn’t pull out the one game the team had to win. It wasn’t his fault Tennessee didn’t beat Georgia, and getting hurt late in the season was an awful break, but in this nitpicky beauty contest that matters.

The same goes for Corum. He was brilliant for the Michigan offense, and it’s not fair that he got hurt, but he wasn’t able to do much in the team’s biggest game of the year against Ohio State and wasn’t in the Big Ten Championship against Iowa.

Like Hooker, CJ Stroud didn’t win his biggest game, but he led the nation in passing efficiency, threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Michigan – the defense wasn’t his fault – and again when we’re splitting hairs, he ended up doing a bit more than the guys who just missed the top three.

Yes, Hooker was amazing against Alabama. Stroud was amazing against Penn State. Ohio State is in the College Football Playoff. Tennessee isn’t. Someone had to be left out.

Stroud was my 3, Duggan was my 2.

Would I have voted for Duggan if he got into the end zone on 4th-and-1 and if TCU won the Big 12 Championship? No, but it might have made the final decision more difficult.

In an MVP way, Duggan’s team to the College Football Playoff and Williams’ isn’t. That might not be fair, but that’s the deal when having to decide between two players with comparable seasons. Even so …

There really wasn’t any choice other than Caleb Williams.

I’m not going to do the “USC might have beaten Utah if Caleb didn’t hurt his hamstring” thing – that’s not fair to the other candidates or the Utes. However, on one leg he threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to Utah – his defense and lines did nothing to help him out. Gutting it out like he did sealed the Heisman deal.

The 470 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA were big, the 18-of-22 day with three rushing touchdowns against Notre Dame was the spotlight everyone was looking for, and there was the Oregon State game.

It was a subtle Heisman moment, nothing was working against the Beavers, but he was able to rise up on the road and lead the way on a game-winning drive to save the day.

All of that, and he was the one who put USC into hyperdrive after Lincoln Riley took over.

It was a weird Heisman year. Williams was able to outlast the field.

My all-time Heisman votes …
2021 QB Bryce Young, Alabama
2020 QB Kyle Trask, Florida (DeVonta Smith won)
2019 QB Joe Burrow, LSU
2018 QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
2017 QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
2016 QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson (Lamar Jackson won)
2015 RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
2014 QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
2013 QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
2012 LB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame (Johnny Manziel won)
2011 QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
2010 QB Cam Newton, Auburn
2009 DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (Mark Ingram won)
2008 QB Tim Tebow, Florida (Sam Bradford won)
2007 QB Tim Tebow, Florida
2006 QB Troy Smith, Ohio State
2005 RB Reggie Bush, USC

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